What is the Walking College?

America Walks serves hundreds of local organizations and thousands of individuals who are working to increase walking and improve walkability in their communities.

To address an identified need for training and capacity building, the America Walks Board of Directors has designed the Walking College – a structured program of self-study, mentored instruction, and team problem-solving.

This spring, a maximum of twenty-five Walking College Fellowships will be awarded to eligible applicants who commit to completing an instructional program (approx. 5 hours/week) between June an August, conducting an independent study project in September and October, and attending the 2nd National Walking Summit in Washington, D.C., October 28-30.

To apply for a Walking College Fellowship Complete this Online Application Form. The deadline for applications is Friday, April 17th at 8:00 pm Eastern, 5:00 pm Pacific.

To learn more, view a recording of the information webinar from April 2, 2015 below. To download a copy of the Power Point presentation, please Click Here.

For more information, please read the detailed sections below and explore our FAQs.

Who should apply for a Walking College Fellowship?

The Walking College targets local change agents working alone, as part of a community organization, or in a profession such as public health, planning, transportation, or education. Apply for a Walking College Fellowship if you:

  • Have a passion for making your community more walkable and livable, and a vision for what that would look like;
  • Want to develop a network of peer mentors and learn to advocate more successfully for walkable community policies and funding;
  • Are willing to invest your personal time and energy in training.

What are the Walking College’s learning objectives?

After completing the course, Walking College Fellows will be able to:

  • Communicate effectively with a variety of audiences about the benefits of a walkable community;
  • Recruit and inspire other local advocates to join the movement, establish an organizational structure, write winning grant applications, and fund-raise;
  • Organize public events, programs, and communication campaigns that emphasize the need for improved walkability;
  • Engage professionals in multiple fields, including public health, planning and transportation, on the ways walkability affects their priorities;
  • Navigate the structure of local and state government and engage elected officials in conversations about walkability;
  • Design and implement effective policy campaigns, such as reducing speed limits and requiring complete streets;
  • Research, understand, and communicate data to support campaigns.

What skills will Walking College Fellows acquire?

The course curriculum has been designed to nurture the development of both the “hard” and “soft” skills that are necessary to become effective community change agents.

“Hard” skills include:

  • The science behind the benefits of walking;
  • Ability to evaluate the built environment, master the public policy process, and understand how projects can be funded with local, state, and federal dollars;
  • Knowledge in specific campaign areas, such as access to transit and “Vision Zero.”

“Soft” skills include:

  • Communications, relationships, and building trust;
  • Fostering a local advocacy movement with multiple diverse stakeholders;
  • Engaging effectively with decision-makers
Who are the Walking College Mentors?

The following experienced walkable community campaigners helped design the Walking College and will serve as Mentors by facilitating video-interactive coaching sessions with small groups of Fellows:

  • Jeanne Anthony, Livable Communities Project Advisor, AARP
  • Anamarie Garces, Executive Director, Urban Health Partnerships
  • Kim Irwin, Executive Director, Health by Design
  • Robert Johnson, Director of Consulting, PedNet Coalition
  • Wendy Landman, Executive Director, WalkBoston and Board Member, America Walks
  • Brighid O’Keane, Alliance for Biking and Walking
  • Molly O’Reilly, Board Member, America Walks and Board Member, Idaho Walk-Bike Alliance
  • Robert Ping, Technical Assistance Program Manager, WALC Institute
  • Lisa Quinn, Executive Director, Feet First
  • Jonathan Stalls, Founder/Lead Itinerant, Walk2Connect
  • Jim Stone, Executive Director, Circulate San Diego
  • Ian Thomas, State and Local Program Director, America Walks (course manager)

What are the components of the Walking College?

The Walking College will consist of an instructional program, an independent study project, and attendance at the 2nd National Walking Summit. There will be several specific activities within each of those components:

Instructional program (June – August):

  • Webinar presentations
  • Online reading and review assignments
  • Community research and field activities
  • Video-interactive discussion forums with mentors
  • Writing and presentation assignments

Independent study project (September/October):

  • 8-week “practicum” project
  • Event, coalition-building, research, etc.
  • Guidance from mentors to develop project plan
  • Report/presentation

National Walking Summit (October 28-30, Washington, D.C.):

  • Peer networking opportunity
  • Learn about national best practices
  • Special sessions for Walking College Fellows and Mentors
  • Finalize community “walking action plan”

What are the course expectations?

  • Commit at least 5 hours per week to the program
  • Complete all assignments and attend all webinar presentations
  • Attend and participate in all video-interactive discussion forums
  • Complete an independent study project in your home community
  • Attend the National Walking Summit in Washington, D.C.
  • Develop a “walking action plan” for your community
  • Work hard and have fun!

How Much Will It Cost?

The true cost of a Walking College Fellowship is $3,500. However, thanks to the generous support of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Walking College Mentors, Walking College Fellows will pay:

America Walks staff will assist Walking College Fellows efforts to fundraise for these costs. Further, America Walks will provide, free of charge:

What is the timeline for applications?

  • Thursday, March 19th: Online application form goes live
  • Thursday, April 2nd (1:00 pm Eastern, 10:00 am Pacific): Walking College Orientation Webinar – Register Here
  • Friday, April 17th (8:00 pm Eastern, 5:00 pm Pacific): Applications window closes
  • Friday, May 1st (approx.): Walking College Fellowships are announced
  • Monday, June 1st: Start of Walking College

To apply for a Walking College Fellowship Complete this Online Application Form. The deadline for applications is Friday, April 17th at 8:00 pm Eastern, 5:00 pm Pacific.

Questions & Answers

Below please find some FAQs. Don’t see what you’re looking for? Contact Ian Thomas with any questions at ithomas[at]americawalks.org


Are applications from outside the U.S. accepted?

Yes, we will accept applications from Canada and other countries, as long as the applicant will be able to attend the Walking Summit in Washington, DC, October 28-30.

Is there a minimum size of community that will be considered?

There’s no specified minimum size. We want every Walking College Fellow to be working in a community where they can make a measurable difference, so a hamlet of three houses, isolated by several miles from the nearest neighboring community might fail that test. However, if you can make the case that you could increase walking and improve walkability in your town, however small it is, we encourage you to apply.

How many applicants do you expect to receive, and will you share the rubric prior to application submission?

We will award a maximum of 25 Fellowships, and we are hoping to receive at least 50 applications.  At the present time (April 8th), about 15 completed applications have come in, but more than 80 people participated in the webinar.  Because this is the first time the Walking College has been presented, we do not have a specific scoring rubric. In general, we are looking for local advocates for walkability who are energized and capable, but may not have the specific skills and experience to maximize their potential.  We also want to recruit a diversity of people, demographics, community types, etc.

Of the 25 selected fellows, do you anticipate selecting a percentage distribution from different types of organization (i.e. community foundations, non-profits, consultants, government agencies, etc)?

We do not have any specific targets.  We would like a healthy, diverse mix of independent advocates, community organizations, professionals in a variety of fields (public health, planning, transportation, education, etc.), non-profit/social service groups, businesses., etc.

Is this a good opportunity for a person working in a large county Public Health Department?

Yes, the Walking College is very well suited to public health professionals working on how the built environment impacts health behaviors.

Would this program be appropriate for a state department of transportation’s pedestrian transportation coordinator? 

The program is focused on local action at the community level.  Therefore, if the state-level pedestrian transportation coordinator is going to be working with local communities and helping them improve their walkability, I can see the program being very appropriate.

Our organization (a regional planning commission) is hiring a new planner to coordinate a new Healthy Communities program, but hiring will not be complete by the Walking College deadline. Can I (as permanent planning professional) apply for us as an organization and potentially move the “Fellow” title over to the new employee when she/he is hired?

I’m afraid I cannot definitively answer that question at this time.  The intent of the program is to take energized but inexperienced advocates for walkability through a comprehensive training and expand their capacity to make positive changes in their communities.   I suggest you explain the situation in your application – if the new planner will be hired and start work before June 1st, then he/she would be able to complete the entire program, which might be acceptable. 


How flexible is the timing for the online portions of the instructional component, and the mentor video conferencing?

Most of the work during the instructional component can be done at times convenient to Fellows’ personal schedules.  The two exceptions are the broadcast webinars (which will actually be archived and so they can be reviewed afterwards, if necessary) and the Mentor-led Video-conferenced Discussion Forums.  We really will want 100% attendance for these sessions, so we will work hard to schedule them when the whole group (typically 5 Fellows and 2 Mentors) can attend.

In estimating the hours needed for the program, are you suggesting that fellows allot 5 hours a week throughout the program June – October, or do you anticipate the 5 hours a week would be applicable during June July and August only?  If so, what time commitment do you anticipate allocating for September and October for the Independent Study project?  What are the expectations of Walking College Fellows upon graduation from the program?

We estimate that Walking College Fellows will spend about 5 hours/week during the instructional portion of the program (June-August).  Because “Independent Study Projects” can vary so much, we are reluctant to be specific about that portion – however, I would expect that you would need to allot at least 5 hours/week to complete a project.  At the end of the Walking College program, you will write a realistic 12-month Action Plan, based on your (or your organization’s) time, resources, etc.  America Walks will want to follow up with you after 6 months and after a year to see how implementation is going.

Do we need to stick to one community? If I plan to move to another city for a summer internship but move back in August? How to deal with this?

We are looking to stimulate the walking/walkability movement in a specific city or neighborhood, rather than simply provide a stand-alone training.  The field work Walking College Fellows will do in their communities is really integral to the program – it will not only give them general experience/skills, but also connect them with the issues of their own community, where we want to make a difference.  If you’re spending the summer in a different city, it will be difficult for you to design an independent study project you can do in Sept/Oct., when you return home. Unfortunately, you may have to wait and apply for the Walking College in a future year when you are settled and involved in the walkability efforts in one community.  However, all the Walking College curricular materials and resources will be publicly available on our web site. 


In my community, one of the main barriers to new sidewalks seems to be residents who don’t want a sidewalk installed in front of their house.  Some of their concerns are liability and having to bear the responsibility of snow removal.  Have you all found effective ways to overcome these concerns, and will that be covered in the Walking College program?

Yes, this is a common problem, which we will cover in the course.  There are strategies and data/resources available (for example, liability can be shown not to be a real issue, and property values are higher in neighborhood with sidewalks) which can be helpful.  It’s also important to prioritize which streets you want to install sidewalks on and explain why (for example, if it is on a walking route to a school) – especially when there is opposition.

Can you give more detail on the project piece of the walking college? Maybe some examples of what have been done in the past (if there has been a previous walking college) so as I know what kind of detail/commitment is required for this.

The “Independent Study” component will consist of an 8-week, self-directed “practicum” project.  We would expect Walking College Fellows to develop a plan by the end of August with help from their Mentors, and then spend at least 5 hours a week on the project in September and October.  The project could be to organize an event, develop a walking coalition, conduct local research on pedestrian collisions, audit where all the missing sidewalks are, identify and understand the city policies that affect walkability, etc..  There will need to be a final report/presentation and the project will form a foundation for future work towards a more walkable community, after the Walking College is over.


When you say, “America Walks staff will assist Walking College Fellows efforts to fundraise for these costs,” can you explain which specific costs you are referring to. Also, since I have family living in Washington, DC and will not need the free hotel room, could I use those funds for other travel expenses?

Walking College Fellows are responsible for the $100 Walking College registration fee and their travel costs to attend the National Walking Summit in Washington, DC., but America Walks will help fundraise these amounts. Summit registration and two nights’ hotel stay ($675 value) will be provided free. I cannot, at this time, give a definitive answer to the question of whether we could support your travel expenses if you did not need the hotel stay, but it’s certainly something we could discuss.

– See more at: http://americawalks.org/walking-college/#sthash.THHkJlT2.dpuf